Last week I reviewed PBS’s “Carthage’s Lost Warriors,” an episode of Secrets of the Dead produced by the German company ZDF. The program profiled the hypothesis of Dr. Hans Griffhorn, who claims that a boatload of Carthaginians and Celts traveled to South America where they influenced native cultures and became the Chachapoya. Both Dr. Griffhorn and another participant on the show, archaeologist Dr. Warren Church, commented on my review and were not happy about, for the same reason.
Earlier today the Costa Rican Times published a grammatically-challenged piece under the byline of Paul Dale Roberts, a self-described “esoteric detective” for Hegelianism Paranormal Intelligence, a California-based Fortean investigation group that claims to base their operations on the philosophy of Hegel. If I am parsing the poor formatting correctly, Roberts took a statement from a woman named Vanessa Harris, a nurse in Ontario who claims to have been abducted by aliens and who was interested in joining the group. He had previously published her statement on the Ghost Place online forum, and on the Knight Talk Radio website.
I hesitated about using her name since it was not clear that she had given permission for Roberts to publicize the information, but since it was published online and internationally, readers would of course find her name easily.
Star Trek Actress Fronts Geocentric Documentary for Apologist who Accuses Jews of Occult Conspiracies
A while back Bill Nye got booed by some biblical fundamentalists when he mentioned that the moon reflects the light of the sun because those fundamentalists felt this was a grievous insult to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1:16: “God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.” Accordingly, the moon must therefore emit rather than reflect light or else it would not conform to God’s design.
This was small potatoes compared to a new movie that has Star Trek: Voyager actress Kate Mulgrew inadvertantly promoting geocentrism on behalf of the conservative Catholic extremist Robert Sungenis, a geocentrist best known for his controversial views on Judaism that are often described as anti-Semitic. Aw, heck: They are anti-Semitic, as we shall see. (Sungenis denies being anti-Semitic, arguing that he does not hate Jewish people, only the actions of Jews.) The film, called The Principle, is based on Sungenis’s blog Galileo Was Wrong, based in turn on his doctoral dissertation of the same name, written for his PhD in religious studies earned from a correspondence school in the Republic of Vanuatu. His work holds that the sun goes around a stationary earth.
Mulgrew wrote on her Facebook page that she had been hired to narrate the trailer without knowing the content of the film or of Sungenis’s controversial views: “I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary.”
In the Deseret News yesterday, there was an interesting article about religious themes in science fiction, and it reflects observations I made in my book Knowing Fear (2008), namely that science fiction is only putatively “about” science; instead, its underlying themes deal with consequences and causes, particularly questions of ethics, morals, and metaphysics. (I argued that the horror genre was the one that dealt with questions of epistemology, science, and knowledge.) This is one reason why religious themes occur frequently in science fiction and fantasy, and why everything from Star Wars to Superman contains imagery drawn from religious iconography. (Not that it is absent from horror, of course; what is horror without Satan and demons?)
This morning I went outside to enjoy the beautiful spring weather, and I looked up into the brilliant blue sky. The sun was shining, and there wasn’t a cloud around. What should I see streaking across the empyrean but a flying saucer! It appeared to be metallic silver, round, with what seemed to be a horizontal disc around the center of the round globule. It hovered for a few seconds before streaking across the sky. Was this an alien spacecraft? Of course not; I knew immediately was it really was.
Purdue Refuses to Test Stone Pieces Brien Foerster Claimed to Have Removed from Puma Punku
Editor's note: Following a complaint from Brien Foerster, this post has been edited to remove references to destructive removal of the stone fragments.
You will I trust recall that Brien Foerster, the fringe theorist, publicly stated that he had taken fragments of stones at Puma Punku in Bolivia for the purpose of having them tested at a laboratory here in the United States as part of an effort to prove that archaeologists have been lying about the age of the ancient site to cover up the involvement of space aliens, a lost civilization, or Bible giants. Foerster stated this on an online fundraising website where he requested that his supporters give him cash to pay for the testing.
PBS: Chachapoya of Peru Are Probably Carthaginians and Celts Who Fled from Rome in 146 BCE
Holy crap! PBS has become America Unearthed. In an episode of the PBS series Secrets of the Dead running on local PBS stations this week and available online for streaming, the venerable public broadcasting channel asserts that blonde-haired, blue-eyed Celts and also some incidental Carthaginians discovered the Americas in Antiquity. (The blue eyes don’t make the show but show up on the show’s web page.) “Carthage’s Lost Warriors” was produced by ZDF, a German television production company associated with the long-running series Terra-X, which traffics in all manner of fringe theories, and the large number of dubbed German interviews testifies to the recycling of a German program. Archaeologist K. Krist Hurst called the show “baloney.”
The internet is an amazing resource for exposing literary wrongdoing. In trying to finalize the translation of the Xisuthrus flood narrative from Berosus (Armenian Eusebius, Chronicle 7 = Greek Eusebius in George Syncellus, Chronicle, p. 28) that I’m using for my anthology of ancient texts, I was trying to revise and correct I. P. Cory’s translation, which while accurate is a bit difficult to read due to its antiquated language. In so doing, I discovered that Cory didn’t write it. He copied it verbatim from Jacob Bryant’s 1776 translation in vol. 3 of his New System, though he did correct errors. For example, he replaced Jacob’s identification of the god warning of the flood as Dis (Pluto) with Jupiter, neither of which is, strictly speaking, the correct translation of the Greek word used, “Dios,” though Jupiter is closer since Dios is an inflected form of Zeus, whom Cory gave in the then-standard Latin equivalent. Anyway, I started checking out more of his translations and discovered that more than a few are plagiarized from earlier works, including most of the Berosus fragments from Bryant, with only minimal indication of borrowing. So far as I can tell, no one since publication of Cory’s work in 1828 has ever identified Bryant as the originator of the Berosus translations.
Examining Scott Wolter and America Unearthed as the Product of a "Culture of Conspiracy"
Yesterday I noted that I am reading Michael Barkun’s 2006 academic investigation of American conspiracy culture, A Culture of Conspiracy. Barkun offers some interesting insight into the development of conspiracy theories, and I was rather amused at how easily his outline for the defining traits of conspiracy culture also serve as the template for how an episode of America Unearthed (or, really, most cable TV pseudo-documentaries) is put together. I thought it might be amusing to present Barkun’s breakdown of the beliefs of conspiracy culture practitioners and compare them to the presentation of Scott Wolter’s beliefs in his books and on America Unearthed.
On the advice of Jeb J. Card, I bought a copy of Michael Barkun’s A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (U California, 2006). It’s a little outside my usual area of research since it focuses on post-World War II right wing conspiracy theories and their intersection with the UFO movement, but it is certainly a fascinating read. Barkun, who put together his book in the same years when I was writing The Cult of Alien Gods (2005), came to the same conclusion that H. P. Lovecraft and his circle at Weird Tales provided the inspiration for many of ufology’s claims, particularly—via Robert E. Howard—the persistent idea that there is a cult conspiracy of lizard or serpent people secretly running the world. Although ultimately derived from Theosophy, such claims transferred to what would become ufology when Ray Palmer introduced them from the fiction of Lovecraft and Howard via his rewrites of the Shaver Mystery stories in Amazing Stories in the 1940s.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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